Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Commuter

Someday, I’m going to look back and think “was my commute in 2016 really that bad?” And, since it is that bad, I’m writing this to remind future me. 

(If you’re not future me, you have no reason to read this -- which is why I’m burying it in the middle of a Saturday night.)

My current commute has the amazing property of being worse in every aspect that what came before, viz.:

Departure Time
  • Hoboken: 6:20 or 6:25 most days. 6:30 if I was pushing it.

  • Third Avenue: No later than 6:15, and usually earlier.

  • Hoboken: 5.5 miles on quiet back roads, with one traffic light. Total time consistently 11 minutes.

  • Third Avenue: 12.5 miles out (13.5 miles back, with the U-turn) on highways. Eight traffic lights. Unforgiving traffic. Lots of speeding up and slowing down; lots of wasted gas. Time usually 16-19 minutes, unless there’s a backup. (Shorter in summer; longer in winter.)

Train Station Parking
  • Hoboken: Flat, free lot. Parked in the same very close spot almost always. Out of my car and right to grade-level tracks fifteen feet away.
  • Third Avenue: Large multi-level parking garage, which costs $3 a day. Garage mostly full of college-students’ cars, so it’s packed even at 6:30. Takes several minutes to find a spot up on the 5th or 6th levels, and longer to walk downstairs, across the pedestrian bridge, and down to track level. Getting out at night is slow and the ticket machines have broken several times already.

Train Ride
  • Hoboken: Rarely too crowded. One-seat ride. Delays were exceptionally rare. About 50 minutes.

  • Third Avenue: Generally crowded, and regularly packed by the time we head into NYC. One-seat ride. Delays were not uncommon, though reasonable given how old the tunnels and signals were. Scheduled to take just less than an hour, usually was about 1:05.


Final Approach to Office
  • Hoboken: Five-minute walk on waterfront. Occasional inclement weather.

  • Third Avenue: Either a 30-minute walk or a 15-20 minute ride on two subways. (Latter costs $2.75, each way.) In bad weather, the walking portion from subway to office building is still 4-5 times as long as the whole walk in Hoboken.

Arrival Time
  • Hoboken: Consistently at 7:45. Total elapsed time about 1:20.
  • Third Avenue: Occasionally as early at 8:00 (with a quick subway connection) but often as late as 8:20. Total average elapsed time 1:55.

The return journey is pretty much the same -- only, obviously, in reverse. Each leg of the commute is a bit more than a half-hour longer, and the working day itself is a full hour longer, which means an increase of 2+ hours every single day. (Just looking at working hours, I’ve estimated that the lower number of PTO days and the longer days mean I’m now working about 311 more hours in a year.)

So, yes, I’m tired all the time. And I do know why. Here’s hoping you (meaning future me, the only person who cares about these minutiae) have it better.

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